Cubs Take Hector Rondon In Rule 5

CHICAGO — Hector Rondon's arm has never been a secret. The question about him has been his health, and the longer the Cubs watched him pitch for Caracas in the Venezuelan League, the more convinced they became that he put his elbow problems behind him.

"We really spent a lot of time on this guy," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "He's had a lot of injuries, and you never know how things will go with a guy's health, but he's been throwing really well. That's a chance he can really good right away."

The Cubs gambled the second pick overall in the Rule 5 draft on the 24-year-old righthander, who was once one of the top pitching prospects in the Indians organization.

Rondon had climed to Triple-A as a 21-year-old, blowing through the Eastern League before making 12 solid starts for Columbus. But he developed elbow problems early in the 2010 season, which led to Tommy John surgery. He had a second surgery on the elbow in 2011, this time to repair a fracture.

While the Indians expected Rondon to be recovered by spring training, he didn't get back into action until August and ultimately made only four appearances. He's been full speed in winter ball, however, holding hitters to a .172 average in 19 appearances, generally working one inning at a time. His fastball was once 95-96 mph but has been consistently in the low-90s in Venezuela.

"He's been throwing the ball really, really well," Hoyer said. "He's got a good arm. We feel we can capitalize on that."

Rondon could easily fit into manager Dale Sveum's bullpen in Chicago, especially if Carlos Marmol is traded before Opening Day. The Indians had planned to return him to a starter's role, as his changeup has been a good pitch, but the Cubs will likely try to build off the momentum he has created as a reliever this winter.


• The Cubs added a pitching prospect when the Rangers sent Barret Loux to them before the Winter Meetings. Jacob Brigham, who had been acquired from Texas for Geovany Soto, was returned to the Rangers. Loux, 22, was drafted by Arizona with the sixth overall pick in 2010 but wasn't signed because of arm issues found in his post-draft physical. The Rangers signed him as a free agent, and he went 14-1, 3.57 in 25 Double-A starts last season.

• The Cubs lost four players in the Rule 5 draft: righthander Starling Peralta to the Pirates in the major league phase, and outfielder Michael Burgess (Astros), infielder Matt Cerda (Cardinals) and righthander Alvido Jimenez (Blue Jays) in the minor league portion.